‘Fellow’ Benny unveils new composition at KMH royal gala opening

On Thursday 26 January, Stockholm’s Royal College of Music, celebrated the opening of its new campus with an inauguration ceremony which featured a specially penned piece of music by Benny Andersson with lyrics by Björn Ulvaeus, Vi äger drömmarna (We Own The Dreams).

Benny acknowledges the audience’s appreciation

Benny, who has helped raise the money needed to fit out the new state-of-the-art building through his involvement with the ‘Music For Millions’ fundraising campaign, attended the prestigious event accompanied by his wife Mona.

Görel Hanser was also among the invited guests along with Göran Arnberg from Benny’s band who is an alumni of Kungliga Musikhögskolan (KMH) and wrote the choral arrangements for Benny and Björn’s new composition.

The gala ceremony, attended by luminaries and royalty including His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, began with a champagne reception in the futuristic, atrium style foyer that connects the original brick stables with the glass and steel structure of the new building.

Following  the unveiling of a large brass plaque engraved with the names of the project’s most significant donors, KMH students performed a contemporary piece from platforms around and above the room before guests were invited to take their seats in the Royal Hall.

Once inside, the concert continued with a mixture of modern, folk and traditional works by acclaimed Swedish composers including Karin Rehnquist and Jesper Nordin.

The students performed the choral Vi äger drömmarna, towards the end of the performance. Benny took the stage briefly afterwards to acknowledge the applause and thank the conductor and musicians.

Benny is only the 9th person to receive a KMH Fellowship

Interspersing the evening’s musical programme were a number of inaugural speeches and presentations, one of which included bestowing Benny with an Honorary Fellowship of Kungliga Musikhögskolan.

According to the music school, the title is only awarded to “particularly deserving persons of great artistic and educational inspiration and integrity”.

The inscription on Benny’s certificate translates as: ‘For rich and multi-faceted achievements as a composer, musical arranger, band leader and instrumentalist, a great commitment to younger fellow musicians and the support of KMH and its students.’

Benny is only the 9th person in the school’s history to have received the honour and he joins the likes of opera singer Birgit Nilsson, violinist Isaac Stern, record producer Sir George Martin and choral conductor Eric Ericson.

(c) 2017 Mono Music AB/Kopparnäset Immaterialrättigheter AB

Speaking to icethesite after the ceremony Benny said in his usual humble manner:

“I have no idea why they think I deserve to receive the Fellowship, but I am extremely honoured and happy that they do. I think it is a very nice collection of names to be a part of.”

Benny also told us that he does hope to record Vi äger drömmarna one day, however, he doesn’t know who will perform it, or when or where it will eventually appear.

Thursday’s concert is scheduled to be broadcast on Swedish radio on 9 February and film from the ceremony will be included on a TV documentary about KMH to be shown later this year.

KMH’s housewarming party continues into this weekend with a packed programme of free concerts, workshops and events open to the public.

There’s more…

Benny and Björn celebrate 50 years of musical collaboration and friendship

Before the guests arrived: BAO rehearsing at Berns Salonger in Stockholm on 05 June.
Before the guests arrived, BAO rehearsing at Berns Salonger in Stockholm on 05 June.

Sunday 5 June 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the day that Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus first met.

One of the world’s most successful and enduring musical collaborations was celebrated in grand style at a private party at Berns Salonger in Stockholm.

The party was attended by 350 guests, all of whom Benny and Björn have worked with during their career, including Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Görel Hanser, Michael B Tretow, Tommy Körberg, Helen Sjöholm and BAO, Tim Rice, Murray Head, Judy Cramer, Peter Jöback, Thomas and Marie Ledin, Lill-Babs, Kristina Lugn, Björn Skifs and Janne Schaffer, to name but a few!

Sir Paul McCartney (Björn and Benny have often acknowledged the massive influence The Beatles made upon their early careers) sent a video message conveying his congratulations.

The celebrations commenced at 18.15 (a reference to the year of the Battle of Waterloo) with a champagne reception during which Benny and Björn both made short welcoming speeches.

While the guests enjoyed dinner, a video of old photographs and interviews from the 1960s played on a big screen.

Some of the guests took to the stage in musical tribute: Benny’s sons Ludvig and Peter performed Rock Me, Helen Sjöholm sang Where I Want To Be, Peter Jöback  Det kan ingen doctor hjälpa and Svenne Hedlund Isn’t It Easy To Say. There were also performances from Lill-Babs, Lena Philipsson and Pernilla Wahlgren.

Benny said that most of the entertainment was as much a surprise for him and Björn as it was for the invited guests, having been planned in secret by a committee consisting of Ludvig, Görel, Lars Rudolfsson and the evening’s toast-master Claes af Geijerstam.

“When we started talking about throwing a party about a year back, Ludvig suggested that maybe they should do something that we didn’t know about,” Benny told us. “It is incredible that so many people wanted to participate. We had such a great time and I think they did too,” he said.

Later in the evening Benny’s band, BAO (Benny Anderssons Orkester), entertained with an hour long set of songs old and new, including their hit Du är min man, performed with a comic twist of Tommy singing the female vocals inferring that Benny and Björn’s relationship was like that of a couple!

However, for many, the highlight of the night was undoubtedly when Agnetha and Frida joined Benny and Björn on stage for the second time in just a few months. And this time they sang!

The female half of ABBA performed a moving duet of The Way Old Friends Do, from their 1980 album Super Trouper, while Benny (piano) and Björn (vocals) performed another classic from the ABBA catalogueDoes Your Mother Know. 

Afterwards, Frida said that it had been a very special occasion: “It was absolutely amazing. A lot of emotions. It’s been very nostalgic,” she told journalists.

Benny told icethesite that he had no idea that Agnetha and Frida were going to sing. “I think it was just so wonderful that they did that for us. I think they were really brave!” he said.

The party continued well into the early hours.

There’s more…

BAO new album – Mitt hjärta klappar för dig

The new 11-track album by BAO (Benny Anderssons Orkester) is called ‘Mitt hjärta klappar för dig’ and is scheduled to be released on Friday 10 June in Sweden. The first single, due shortly, is ‘En natt i Köpenhamn’.

Benny Anderssons Orkester
Benny Anderssons Orkester – Photo: Peter Knutson

In a change from what was reported previously, the album will consist of 11 tracks. This is in order that the vinyl version (where space is limited) can match that of the CD release. The vinyl version is slated for a mid-July release.

Of the ten tracks with vocals (all in Swedish), nine have lyrics written by Björn Ulvaeus and one features lyrics by Frida Hyvönen.

Mitt hjärta klappar för dig
Mitt hjärta klappar för dig – due June 10

Mitt hjärta klappar för dig – tracklist

  1. En natt i Köpenhamn
  2. Bara bara du
  3. Hem till mamma
  4. Minnena bleknar med tiden
  5. Summa summarum
  6. Timmarna går så fort när man har roligt
  7. En svala gör ingen sommar
  8. Smoochy (instrumental)
  9. Isabella Rahm (lyrics by Frida Hyvönen)
  10. Mitt hjärta klappar för dig
  11. Ticka ticka väckarklocka

For more information on BAO, please check out the Benny Anderssons Orkester Facebook page.

When Björn Ulvaeus met Richard Dawkins

When Björn Ulvaeus met Richard Dawkins was filmed at Stockholm's Cirkus theatre.
‘When Björn Ulvaeus met Richard Dawkins’ was filmed at Stockholm’s Cirkus theatre.

In the video embedded below, former ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus meets author, ethologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

The meeting was recorded on 12 December 2015 at the Cirkus theatre in Stockholm. The pair discuss Dawkins’ work on the front line of research and about their joint fight against superstition and fallacies.

Björn is a prominent member of the Swedish Humanist Association and has written articles about his humanistic approach to life. On joining the Humanist society, Björn said: “When I saw irrational, religious conservative values and hostility against science influencing society, I searched for an organisation that deals with these questions.”

Dawkins’ book Kampen mot illusionerna (Fight against delusions) seen in the background of the video revolves around the second half of his eventful life and relates his encounters and experiences linked to science and research. The organisers of the event were Fri Tanke Publishing House and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The video lasts for 1 hour, 7 minutes.

There’s more…

Mamma Mia! The Party premieres in Stockholm

When ‘Nikos Taverna’ opened its doors for the Mamma Mia! The Party premiere in Stockholm, the four former ABBA members, Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad, were all there to help kick off the event.

ABBA reunited at Mamma Mia! The Party in Stockholm

The evening got underway at 6pm, it was dark and minus 7 degrees outside but that didn’t stop ABBA fans from lining the pavement in the hope of seeing members of the Swedish supergroup arrive. Nearby, inside a specially erected (and heated!) marquee, the equally excited press jostled for space alongside the deep blue ‘Red Carpet’.

The first to arrive was Frida, accompanied by her long-term partner Henry Smith. Benny and his wife Mona followed shortly behind them. A rumour circulated that Agnetha had slipped in through another door, but at just after 7pm, she too made her entrance along the carpet. Björn’s arrival with wife Lena completed the set.

(L-R) Benny, Frida, Björn and Agnetha on the red carpet on the way into the event.

All four spent time posing for photos and answering questions from the waiting journalists before making their way into Gröna Lund’s recently converted Tyrol restaurant.

The premiere was also attended by Benny Andersson’s sons Peter and Ludvig, Björn and Agnetha’s son Christian and Björn’s daughters Emma and Anna. The star studded guest list included Görel Hanser, Micke B Tretow, Tommy Körberg, Helen Sjöholm, Gunilla Backman, Judy Cramer, Catherine Johnson, Matthias Hansson, Ingemarie Halling, Björn Borg, Alcazar

… and a handful of lucky fans.

Upon entering ‘Nikos’, the invited guests were greeted by Greek Gods bearing trays of Ouzo shots, before being shown to their tables.

Inside, the temperature was that of a Greek summer evening. Vines trailed the crumbling walls, fountains danced and the air was heavy with the scent of olive trees and jasmine. As the evening progressed, the light gradually faded as the sun went down and candles began to flicker.

A three course Mediterranean style meal, consisting of bread, dips, salads, platters of grilled meat and fish, potatoes and roasted vegetables, rounded off with a yoghurt and honey pannacotta was served to the tables.

While the guests enjoyed their food, the show took place around them. There is no stage, instead, the talented and vocally strong cast (led by Sisse Eriksson from the original Swedish production of Mamma Mia!), delivered their dialogue, sang and danced between the tables on the restaurant floor.

The actors often engaged with the guests and encouraged audience interaction. From the first bar of the first song everyone was singing and clapping along…Agnetha and Frida included! Sitting together on a table to one side of the room, the pair could clearly be seen holding hands and singing the harmonies to the ABBA tracks that they made famous.

Benny and Björn sat at neighbouring tables surrounded by family and close friends.

The show was split into three acts to allow for the service of food and drinks, but there was never a dull moment. During the breaks, the audience was entertained by performers in Cirque du Soleil style.

“As the four of us are here, Agnetha and I think we should do something” – Frida

Towards the end of the final act, ‘ABBA’ suddenly rose from their chairs, pushed their way through the crowded room and stepped up on to a small, raised, dance platform. The premiere audience went wild with whoops of delight and disbelief as the four stood together on stage smiling and waving at them.

Afterwards, Benny told icethesite that the, already iconic, moment had not been planned.

“It was entirely impromptu,” he said. “And it was the girls’ idea! Frida came over to me during the show and said: “As the four of us are here, Agnetha and I think we should do something”. I said “Yeah, why not, so we spoke to Björn and that is how it happened”.

Following the performance, tables were cleared and the restaurant transformed into a nightclub. Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Frida watched on from a first floor balcony as guests partied below.

Although the songs in Mamma Mia! The Party are all sung in English, the dialogue during Mamma Mia! The Party is currently only performed in Swedish. However, Björn has said that he is working on an English script translation and that he hopes to have an English language version of the show ready by Spring, in time for many international visitors to Stockholm for Eurovision 2016.

If the Stockholm production is a success, Mamma Mia! The Party may roll out to other cities around the world.

There’s more…

‘Kristina från Duvemåla’ opens in Stockholm as ‘Mamma Mia!’ closes on Broadway

On Saturday 12 September 2015, almost 20 years after Kristina från Duvemåla first premiered at Malmö’s Musikteater, the latest and last official production of the Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Lars Rudolfsson musical opened at Cirkus theatre on the Stockholm island of Djurgården.

Benny & Björn on stage at the last premiere of 'Kristina'
Benny, Björn and Lars on stage at the Stockholm premiere of ‘Kristina från Duvemåla’

We will not ourselves stage ‘Kristina’ again. We have done it six times now and we all feel that is enough – Benny Andersson.

The red-carpet event was attended by all three of the show’s creators accompanied by their wives, family members and a host of famous faces including Görel Hanser, set designer Robin Wagner, Benny’s son Peter and Nanne Grönvall, Peter Jöback, Anders Ekborg, Ingmarie Halling, Gunilla Backman, Anders Glenmark, Anders Hanser and Kristina Lugn.

Featuring Maria Ylipää as Kristina, Robert Noack as Karl Oskar, Oskar Nilsson as Robert and Birthe Wingren as Ulrika, the Cirkus staging remains virtually unchanged from the hugely successful 2013/14 Helsinki and 2014/15 Gothenburg productions.

The experience of the cast was evident and the consistently strong, polished performances delivered seamlessly throughout the four-hour show were rewarded by rapturous applause and standing ovations from the first-night audience. But it will come as no surprise, that the loudest cheer of the evening was, undoubtedly, for Benny and Björn as they joined the cast and production team on stage for a curtain call.

Kristina’ will play at Cirkus until Spring 2016. However, regardless of the demand for tickets, it must then close. Extending the run is not an option as the theatre is already booked for subsequent seasons.

And Benny has confirmed to icethesite that this will be the very last opportunity for audiences to see the musical as they envisage it:

“We will not ourselves stage ‘Kristina’ again,” he said. “We have done it six times now and we all feel that is enough.

“The scaled down production designed for the smaller theatre space in Helsinki was an experiment. We were not sure it would work, but its success proves that it is a feasible project for any theatre, so maybe it is now time for someone else to have a go and do it their way,” he told us.

Benny added that although they had discussed recording the current production, with a DVD release in mind, they had decided against the idea.

“We see each performance as a living thing that is best experienced in a live theatre environment,” he explained. “So if people really want to see it they will have to come to Cirkus before next summer!” he said.

Recent press articles have drawn a lot of comparisons between the problems faced by emigrants like Kristina and those caught up in the current refugee situation. But Benny himself is not convinced that this will help Kristina från Duvemåla appeal to a new or wider audience as the media has suggested.

“It is incredible timing and seems very appropriate that we have opened now, but I don’t know if it will alter our audience numbers,” he said. “However, it is true that we are dealing with many of the same issues, so if the resemblance helps someone to think about and understand the plight of such people, well, that can only be a good thing for everyone, I suppose,” he concluded.

Judy Cramer at the final performance of Mamma Mia! on Broadway - Photo:David Gorden
Judy Cramer and cast at the final performance of Mamma Mia! on Broadway – Photo: David Gorden

By coincidence, as the curtain rose for ‘Kristina’ in Stockholm last Saturday, so it fell on the Broadway production of Benny and Björn’s other musical Mamma Mia! Therefore, although Mamma Mia!’s producer Judy Cramer was at the Broadhurst Theatre for the final performance (which was described by U.S. theatre critics as more like a rock concert than a Broadway musical!), neither, Benny or Björn were able to be in New York due to the clash of dates.

“We did send a video message to the cast to say ‘Thank you!’ though, ” Benny said. “And under any other circumstance we wouldn’t have hesitated to attend. But when it comes to a choice between an opening night or a closing night? Well, no contest!” he declared.

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He’s A Man, He’s A Child/Han är en man, han är ett barn

The fantastic song Han är en man, han är ett barn, written for CHESS (på Svenska) the Swedish production of CHESS, is to be released soon in its English form He’s A Man, He’s A Child.

The song in Swedish is available on the album and DVD of CHESS (på Svenska) performed by Josefin Nilsson.

He’s A Man, He’s A Child (Andersson/Ulvaeus) is from CHESS In Concert (Benny Andersson, Tim Rice, Björn Ulvaeus) and performed by Reidun Sæther with the Arctic Philharmonic, orchestrated and conducted by Anders Eljas.

Reidun Sæther

The track will be available to download from places such as iTunes and Spotify soon.

Here is a preview:

Björn talks up Stockholm and ABBA The Museum in UK press article

Björn pictured at ABBA The Museum earlier this year
Björn pictured at ABBA The Museum earlier this year

The Guardian has Björn talking about the beauty of Stockholm and its many attractions in the publication’s The Way I See It series. He also mentions his favourite eateries and the ABBA outfit that makes him cry out in pain when he sees it.

He tells the media outlet: “Stockholm has everything New York or London has but without the people and the traffic. Because it is built on islands and surrounded by water, you get this enormous sense of freedom. People don’t bother me at all, so I can walk around without any problem.

“Naturally, I would recommend a visit to ABBA The Museum. When they told me that it should be in Stockholm, that’s when it dawned on me – it’s going to be in a very prominent place that I will “pass many times a year, with my children and grandchildren, and with friends. It had to be great, because I wouldn’t be able to escape it. That’s why I got involved. It’s a very hi-tech museum, but it also has warmth and humour. My favourite exhibit would have to be the homemade double bass from my first-ever group.

Part of the original costumes display at ABBA The Museum
Part of the original costumes display at ABBA The Museum

“Stockholm is the most beautiful capital in the world. Visitors should take one of the sightseeing boats and see it from the water. They should also visit the Vasa Museum. It’s absolutely magnificent – a large 17th-century ship housed within a museum.

“The Stockholm archipelago is unique, with tens of thousands of islands. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’ll often take my boat to Sandhamn, an island outside of Stockholm. There’s a restaurant there called Monrad’s where I like to have lunch. Actually, I’ll be going there soon with the new lady in my life. I’ve called her Dancing Queen and she’s a Princess 64 Flybridge yacht.

“There are lots of outfits in the museum. I’m proud to say that most of my ABBA costumes still fit me. I don’t have a favourite, but if I had to choose one it would be something from the later years. There’s a photo of me in a kind of Superman outfit from early on and I cry in pain every time I see it. It shows a level of bad taste unsurpassed by any other pop star.

“I love the city’s food hall markets. Two of the best are Östermalmshallen and Hötorgshallen. My favourite restaurant is at Hotel Skeppsholmen, but the food I couldn’t do without is sashimi. I go to a great Japanese restaurant in the centre called Seikoen. There’s also a marina called Bullandö, just outside Stockholm, where I go to eat the best ice-cream in Europe – it’s called Bullandö Glassfabrik.

“My favourite thing about Stockholm, and Sweden in general, is that it’s not overcrowded. There are only nine million of us Swedes, so we’re not overpopulated in the way many areas of Europe are.

“People in Stockholm are quicker to adapt to change than in the rest of the country. It has become a very creative city – for music, fashion and computer games. It is a lot more cosmopolitan than it used to be, but I wouldn’t want it to grow much bigger.

“When I get time off, I love to relax with my grandchildren – sailing, kayaking, reading, and watching movies and documentaries. I love to take them all on holiday with me.

“Benny comes to Stockholm regularly so I see him quite a bit, especially since we still work together from time to time. Agnetha and I have children and grandchildren together, so I see her at birthday parties and such. Frida comes to Stockholm from her home in Switzerland every now and then, and she’ll say hello.

“There are some great Swedish musicians around at the moment. I’ve been listening a lot to the Swedish band First Aid Kit. Their roots are in folk music and the same goes for me.

“I don’t think I’ll be watching Eurovision this weekend. I rarely watch it these days. Not because it was better in the old days (it wasn’t), but because there are too many countries in the competition. And as a songwriter, I’d be more interested in a contest where the emphasis was on the quality of the song.

“I love churches and there are a couple in the old city, such as the Storkyrkan, which I’d recommend visiting.

“Another special exhibit at the ABBA Museum is an award we were given which I had at home for years. It’s a hideously ugly German music award, a figurine in the form of Hiawatha called Silberne Otto. It was awarded to us by the German magazine Bravo and I kept it on my windowsill. Over time I grew rather fond of it and it was with a heavy heart that I gave it to the museum. Come to think of it, I miss my Silberne Otto.

“During the ABBA years, we did some television work in East Berlin. People there loved us but it was so depressing. I remember we were paid in whatever currency they had – East German marks or whatever – which you couldn’t change when you got to the west. Nobody would take it. I had one day to get rid of it, so I bought everyone in the bar a drink!

“I only book holidays in winter. Why? Try a cold, windy and damp November day in Stockholm and you’ll know why!”

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